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Coronavirus: Former Wimbledon groundskeeper says cancellation the right call

Jo—Wilfried Tsonga of France returns to Sam Querrey of the United States during their Men's Singles Match on day five at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London Friday, July 7, 2017.
Jo—Wilfried Tsonga of France returns to Sam Querrey of the United States during their Men's Singles Match on day five at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London Friday, July 7, 2017. AP Photo/Tim Ireland

The cancellation of Wimbledon 2020 hits close to home for Stony Plain’s Grant Cantin.

“I still stay in contact with a lot of people over there,” said Cantin, who worked on the grounds crew at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet for 17 years before coming back to Alberta in 2018. He was head groundskeeper for the last two years.

Wimbledon was scheduled for June 29 to July 12. Other sporting events have announced postponements, but Cantin says that wouldn’t be possible for Wimbledon.

“The main thing is: when would you play it?” he explained. “There was a lot of talk of playing it in the fall. But the U.S. Open ends on Sept. 12. The French Open has moved to Sept. 25.

“Realistically, you’d have to start playing in mid-August or October, which is more likely the scenario.

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“The problem is the days are getting too short. With such a huge event, you wouldn’t being able to squeeze in your matches. You’d probably have to finish play by six o’clock every evening instead of 10 o’clock. Logistically, it’s an absolute nightmare.

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“I’m not surprised by this call. It’s absolutely the right call.”

Cantin grew up in Stony Plain before studying turf management at Olds College. He worked at a golf course in Australia, which led to an opportunity at Wimbledon.

“It has to be a summertime event. You’re looking at over 600 matches to play,” said Cantin. “Do you cancel the junior event? Do you cancel the wheelchair event? Do you make the men’s tennis best-of-three instead of best-of-five?

“It’s not a Wimbledon thing to do to not include everybody.”

Cantin left Wimbledon in January of 2019. The cancellation has him thinking about everyone who would have been involved in the tournament.

“Even small things like the ball kids. Summertime is their time off school. If this is October, they’re back in school. Where would you come up with 300 or 400 kids for that?”

Here’s Grant Cantin’s full interview on Inside Sports with Reid Wilkins:

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